As any of my friends can tell you, I am a total Tolkien fangirl. That is one of the big things about me that everyone learns—either in person or online. My tumblr has stuff on it and I am happy to sound off about the series. The Lord of the Rings was the first adult book I ever read and I devoured it. I have studied so much about LOTR, The Hobbit, The Silmarillion, and The Children of Húrin that I am a bit of a Tolkien scholar. Granted, I am not up to Colbert levels, but I can hold my own in most circumstances. I even took classes on his work when I was getting my Masters degree and wrote a paper on the movies. My love for those works knows no bounds. So, clearly I am into the games … right?
Honestly, not so much. Right after the first movie came out I played the first EA game and I thought it was meh. The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers was not a bad game per se, but it wasn’t all that great either. I felt that the gameplay was stilted, didn’t always connect with the novels or movies very well, and was trying too hard. It pretty much left a bad taste in my mouth.
Thanks to that, I sort of stayed away from any of those games, not willing to subject myself to them until I got sick and all I could do was sit on our couch. Knowing that I was laid up, a friend of mine talked me into playing Turbine’s Lord of the Rings Online, saying he was sure I would like it. I was hurt and miserable and felt like a game couldn’t make it worse. Thankfully, it didn’t. I had so much fun playing the game that you have no idea.
My first character was an Elf hunter and she was only okay. Yes, I squeed when I ran around with Elrond in the opening, but that was about it. She just did nothing for me and I was about to quit the game altogether until I made a new character—a hobbit—and things really started to take off.
That opening made me lose my mind as it hit all the right buttons for me. There was Frodo and Sam on the run from the Shire, a Ringwraith in pursuit, Aragorn looking for aid—it was nuts. As I ran about the Shire undertaking quests, I giggled at seeing all those places that I knew so well from my reading. Meeting Gandalf, Tom Bombadil, Barliman, Goldberry, and more, I was in this heady high as I traipsed throughout the maps of places I knew so well from my reading.
With my brave Hobbit Guardian, Ganama, I fought my way through the primary storyline, part of the secondary, wandered through Moria, went to Angmar, fought on Weathertop, and more. It was incredible. I wanted more and more, and let me tell you, Turbine delivered.
While I did get to meet pretty much all of the primary characters from LOTR, I also got to meet a lot of secondary and tertiary characters as well, such as Elrond’s sons, who are important to the story but got left out of the movies. There was even Glorfindel, a character that was in The Silmarillion as well as in The Lord of the Rings, who was a major player in Middle-earth. My wife laughed a great deal when I would run into someone I was familiar with and gibber excitedly, spewing lore at her. She inadvertently learned a great deal about Middle-earth thanks to my freaking out, which helped her enjoy the movies more.
Not all was mead and lembas, however. There were a few issues I had with the game, as no gameplay is without problems. Since this was the first MMO I had ever played, I had not quite gotten the whole ‘teaming up with people’ portion of the event. Sure, I did it a few times on areas that were particularly tricky, but on the whole I ran around and beat things up by myself. This was not the greatest of plans as I died far more times than were really necessary. My friend, who is a big MMO player, simply sighed and informed me that I was missing out on some of the best parts of gaming in an MMO.
It also took me quite a while to get the hang of gameplay as I was unfamiliar with how different skills and powers came into play during combat or any other time, really. I faced a rather steep learning curve because of that. However, once I figured that out, I died a lot less often.
The other thing was that LOTRO was also the game that really brought me back into gaming. I occasionally played my PS2, killing hordes in Dynasty Warriors or rolling up everything in Katamari Damacy, but not often—maybe once a month or less. Things were just not holding my interest much. There were no games on my computer and I resigned myself to doing whatever, leaving gaming behind for the most part. Then LOTRO came my way and I plunged back into gaming with a vengeance. For all that I fangirled over pretty much everything in the game, it did renew my love of video games. Helping Gandalf, Aragorn, Glóin, Elrond, “Gaffer” Gamgee, Bilbo, and others with their problems, I immersed myself in this virtual Middle-earth and reignited a love that I had thought faded.
I don’t play it all that much anymore, but if you are on the Imladris server, look for me. If I’m on, I will happily run about with you. And I am now looking forward even more to playing LEGO Lord of the Rings as well as having decided to pick up War in the North. Thanks to Turbine’s excellent game, I am back gaming and can really appreciate the works that come out of Professor Tolkien’s lore.